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May 22, 2013

Raising Aces

This Justin

by Doug Thorburn


The stage was set for an epic duel in Arlington last Thursday, pitting perennial CY Young contender Justin Verlander against 2013's frontrunner for the hardware, Yu Darvish of the Rangers. The matchup was a slam-dunk selection for the Game of the Week on this week's episode of TINSTAAPP, and the hype was such that it took thoughtful consideration before co-host/BP colleague Paul Sporer reluctantly chose the “under” when I set the line at 23 strikeouts for the two starters combined.

To say that the game fell short of expectation is a massive understatement. Darvish threw 130 pitches in a game in which he surrendered four runs over the first four frames yet was in no danger of losing. Verlander saw to it that Darvish would get his seventh win of the season, surrendering eight earned runs before he could escape the third inning. The third frame of Thursday's game was the worst of Verlander's career—the Rangers plated seven runners, including two via bases-loaded walks, and the outing ended mercifully after Geovany Soto knocked a 97-mph fastball into the left-field stands for an 8-3 Ranger lead.

While recognizing that such a disaster start is within the realm of statistical possibility—one might argue that a pitcher with more than 1600 innings in the majors was bound to have one at some point—there is more to be learned through examination of the forensic evidence on the field. Before we delve into the mechanical details, allow me to review a history lesson in order to put Verlander's delivery against Texas into context. The following clip comes from an August 6, 2012 game in which Verlander battled the New York Yankees.

Verlander threw eight innings against the Yankees, striking out 14 batters and surrendering a single walk along with a pair of unearned runs. His fastball averaged 94.6 mph, with a steady trend of increasing speed that spiked at 100.7 mph on his 130th pitch of the game. Verlander’s mechanics were impeccable throughout the season, earning him one of just three “A” grades among starting pitchers in the 2013 SP Guide.

Mechanics Report Card

Balance

60

Momentum

60

Torque

70

Posture

65

Release Distance

65

Consistency

70

For an explanation of the grading system for pitching mechanics, please consult this pair of articles.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (05/22)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Raising Aces: Stuffing... (05/17)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Raising Aces: Splittin... (05/24)
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Premium Article Overthinking It: Bette... (05/22)

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